The Cheltenham Festival is the main event on the horse racing calendar. Four days of top-class racing at Prestbury Park, hundreds of thousands of racegoers (usually) coming through the turnstiles, and the finest horses in the world going head-to-head in some of the sport’s biggest races.
In the build-up to the 2021 edition, we’re taking a look at the four major races of the week. We’ve looked at the top 10 Champion Hurdle winners, and the pick of the Champion Chase bunch. This week, it’s time to look at six of the best Stayers’ Hurdle winners of all time.
Our list includes one horse that’s back for more in 2020. Read on…
It’s no surprise to see Irish-trained winners at the Cheltenham Festival – in fact, those from the Emerald Isle often get the better of their British counterparts these days. But that wasn’t the case a few decades back.
In 1987, there was just one Irish winner. And in 1988, there was just one Irish winner. That winner was the same horse, in the same race. Galmoy. In the Stayers’ Hurdle. Trained by John Mulhern and ridden by Tommy Carmody, the great hurdler became the first post-war dual winner.
After the foot-and-mouth outbreak and the cancelled Cheltenham Festival in 2001, it was time for a new hero and the French-bred Baracouda proved to be exactly that for owner JP McManus and the Doumen family.
Trained by Francois and ridden by Thierry, Baracouda got up by a neck to win in 2002 and doubled up with victory as an eight-year-old 12 months later. The horse won 10 consecutive races between November 2000 and November 2002 and racked up over £750,000 in prize money. Magnifique.
The first to land three Stayers’ Hurdles, Inglis Drever is one of Cheltenham Festival’s most legendary horses – and it could have been four had it not been for a career-threatening injury ruling him out of the 2006 running.
The Howard Johnson-trained horse was ridden by three different jockeys for each win, with Graham Lee, Paddy Brennan and Denis O’Regan doing the business in 2005, 2007 and 2008 respectively as the great hurdler completed the most remarkable of comebacks.
Quite simply, the very best. After causing a relative shock in 2009 to win his first Stayers’ Hurdle, the Ruby Walsh and Paul Nicholls combination teamed up to win three more for the Stewart Family.
Big Buck’s best performance came in 2010 cruising to the final flight before pulling away to win by more than three lengths. In 2011, Walsh dropped his whip before the final flight but held on to win, and then the 9-year-old made history with a fourth in 2012 – extending his winning streak over hurdles to 16.
He suffered his first defeat in over five years in 2014 and retired later that year as a true legend of the sport.
Speaking of retirement, the legendary Thistlecrack has just called it a day after a momentous career, winning a heap of hurdles races including five Grade Ones.
Nearly £750,000 in prize money was earned after 13 wins in 25 runs, including the memorable Stayer’s Hurdle win in 2016. Alpha Des Obeaux tried to lay down a challenge, but Tom Scudamore hardly had to try – pulling away to win by seven lengths.
Paisley Park rounded off a perfect season with victory in the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle, producing an unrivalled turn of foot up the home straight to quickly turn sixth place into first – justifying favouritism and maintaining an unbeaten campaign.
He couldn’t repeat the feat last year after being found to have a heart issue, but victory over Thyme Hill at Ascot in December showed that Emma Lavelle’s charge is back to his best. He’s 11/4 favourite to fend off his rival again and join the double club.
*Stated odds correct at time of writing
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